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The Mascot Theory - photo by David Jackson

The Mascot Theory

an interview with Erik Kjelland
by Teri Barr
November 2015

If you’re trying to pin-point who’s currently a fast rising male star on the music scene, look no further than Erik Kjelland. The Madison-based, Mineral Point-born musician is part of an award-winning band with a new CD on the way; plus, he’s about to partner with another successful area artist for a special winter tour. This is all happening after a well-received Summerfest performance with his band The Mascot Theory, a featured performance with the Madison Youth Choir and Black Star Drum line at the Madison Area Music Association Awards (where The Mascot Theory took home 4 awards), and a sold-out Barrymore show with Vance Joy, just to name a few of the highlights.

But Kjelland isn’t taking any of it for granted. He’s open about a recent health issue, which may be making him even more determined to reach his goals. He took time to answer my questions about his plans moving forward, and as one of the local bands hosting the Flannel Fest show at the High Noon Saloon on Saturday, November 7th. It’s only in its second year, but Kjelland is proud that it’s already one of the hottest tickets in town due to the quality of musicians taking part in the fundraising show in support of the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund. Just one more thing to add to his list of rewards this year.


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JD Simo at Atwoodfest 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin - photo by Teri Barr

Simo

an interview with guitarist/singer JD Simo
by Teri Barr
October 2015

He is old school, and proud of it. J.D. Simo says pounding the pavement to meet people, and playing live night after night, is what suits him and his style of music. Simo grew up in Chicago, quit high school, and moved to Nashville where as a studio musician he played on more than 500 albums. He says many were popular names we may recognize – which made him recognize – he didn’t want to play sessions the rest of his life. In just the last five years, the now 30-year-old released his own album, formed a trio named SIMO, played festivals, opened for Greg Allman, Deep Purple, and recorded another album. It will be released in January, 2016; while SIMO, continues to tour non-stop, adding Europe to the schedule this winter. He also just got married. Simo the man, and SIMO the trio. Both are something special. I talked with him backstage during July’s AtwoodFest as his group closed out the first night, and found him to be kind, smart, and witty. Our recent phone conversation was very similar, and though on the road, he seemed to enjoy talking about returning to Madison, and what has shaped the way he commands the stage.


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Clyde Stubblefield on stage at the High Noon Saloon 8/30/2015 - photo by Mary Sweeney Photography

Clyde Stubblefield

an in-depth interview with the future Hall of Famer!
by Teri Barr
September 2015

“I am a happy man.”

Talking with Clyde Stubblefield during the past couple of weeks, the one feeling he’s pointed out each time, is his happiness. “I am getting so much love, and being back on stage playing my drums is making me a happy, happy man,” the 72 year old says with a smile.

To understand this current focus on Stubblefield, the fundraising shows to establish a music scholarship and a push to get him nominated for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you have to dig back into his past. Born in Tennessee, he started playing drums after seeing musicians in a parade. But from the start, he created his own rhythm, without any formal training. ”I’d listen to the things happening around me. The train, traffic, work at the factory. And I’d then make up some beats to go along with it,” Stubblefield says. The unique style made him stand out when James Brown heard him play at a bar in Georgia. It was an unanticipated beginning in the music business, for a man who would go on to forever be known, as the funky drummer. “Just always put down whatever groove I wanted. No one ever told me what to do, and things just always sort of happened,” Stubblefield says. Brown asked him to play shows – first in New York at the Apollo Theater, then it was on to Europe. For more than 6 years, he kept that one-of-a-kind, funky, R & B beat going for Brown. Yet ask him about that time now, and Stubblefield seems surprised. “All of it. It all just sort of happened. I don’t plan anything, so everything we did was a surprise. Traveling to different states and countries to play music? I sure didn’t plan it,” Stubblefield says.


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Molly Ford, singer for The Civil Engineer  - photo by Mary Sweeney Photography

The Civil Engineers

an interview with guitarist Chris Castro
by Teri Barr
August 2015

Sing along, dance along, or just nod your head along; the music of The Civil Engineers will not allow you to just sit there. The 7 piece band has almost every instrument covered – Molly on vox, Chris plays guitar, Garrick has the keys, Tim aka T-LO plays bass, Carl on drums, Jason plays sax, Catherine is on the trumpet – and the groove the group lays down together, isn’t like anything else you’ve heard before with a little rock, some soul, and a lot of funk. The band is working on its debut CD, an EP they’re calling “Save the Bridge,” which is expected to be done by fall; yet even without it, The Civil Engineers have already built a strong following around the state (the next Madison show is at The Frequency on August 21). I talked with lead guitar player Chris Castro about the band’s unique sound, the funny way they got their name, and why you need to be ready for almost anything when you go to a show.

Maximum Ink: How did you find the sound that defines The Civil Engineers?
Chris Castro:
Our sound is definitely rooted in soul, since that’s how we got our start - just jamming out on Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye tunes in Molly’s basement. It’s evolved pretty far from there—and we’ve taken elements of funk, rock, hip hop, and ska – and spread it throughout our tunes. It’s music for dancing and partying, though we do throw a few curveballs in the mix.

MI: And with that mix of elements, your backgrounds in music must be diverse, too?
CC:
Garrick, Carl and Catherine all hold degrees in music. I know Jason studied jazz at some point. Molly’s powerhouse voice was formed by years of musical theater. Tim and I aren’t as formal. We’ve just played in lots and lots of bands (psychedelic jammy stuff, bluegrass, hardcore, you name it).

MI: What brought your current line-up together?
CC:
We sorta knew each other from here and there, but it took a mutual friend who said to us “yo you guys are all really talented! You should form a band” to make us act on it. The first version was Molly, Garrick, Tim and I, along with a different drummer. We gathered in Molly’s basement one night and started slammin’ some PBRs, and jammin’ some Motown tunes. We had fun so kept on doing that for a few months, and then at one point a friend of ours asked us to come out and play at his house party.

After that we just started playing wherever people would have us - parties, bars, backyards, you name it. Carl then joined us in late 2014, and then our horn players, Catherine and Jason, joined in early 2015.


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Bird's Eye at the High Noon Saloon - photo by BMB Graphics

Bird’s Eye

interview with Joe Waldbillig
by Teri Barr
July 2015

This is one sneaky band. Bird’s Eye lures you in with its positive energy, which is driven by some great live musicians. Then, wham; you are hit hard with a positive hip hop vibe, delivered with a funky, fresh beat. You’ll get the chance to check out this group at this year’s two-day AtwoodFest. Bird’s Eye plays the Alchemy Stage on Sunday, July 26th.  I recently asked guitar player Joe Waldbillig what to expect during the band’s AtwoodFest show, how they find time for music, and why their busy lives have led to a divide and conquer attitude.

Maximum Ink:  You have some multi-talented musicians! Six people singing and playing almost ten different instruments?
Joe Waldbillig:
Yeah, Bird’s Eye consists of Ra Fury, and yes that is his real name! He is our emcee/vocalist/lyracist. I’m on electric guitar, Evan Nelson plays bass guitar, Lauren Johnson covers vocals, saxaphone, and piano. We have Sean Peyton on drums, and Hannah Larson is also a vocalist, plays piano, and auxiliary percussion.


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Held: A Musical Fantasy

Held: A Musical Fantasy

an interview with Kelly Maxwell
by Teri Barr
June 2015

VO5. Little Red Wolf. Held. You may recognize one or more from the Madison arts scene, but did you know the same person has played a part in all three?  Kelly Maxwell made her initial mark locally as a musician, but is now sharing her talents on a different stage. “Held: A Musical Fantasy,” is playing weekends through June at Broom Street Theater. It’s Kelly’s directorial debut, and first full-length work. “Held” is on the dark side of fairytales, with the consequences of power driven by the music, and weaved between the characters – one, demonstrating charm and a gift for the supernatural – the other, a determined realist. Let’s just say it leads to a powerful end. 

I recently asked Kelly about using her own power to move between music, and theater. And why this may be the start of a real-life fairytale, come true.


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Morgan Rae - photo by Cocao Malamiravicht

Devil To Drag

An interview with singer Morgan Rae
by Teri Barr
May 2015

Sometimes, starting in reverse, can throw you into full forward.
It’s what the members of Devil to Drag may be learning right now. This Madison-based group began simply—as an acoustic duo—but expanded to a trio, and eventually a full power alt rock band. And though Devil to Drag is still young on the scene at less than a year together, the musicians involved bring experience, and an aggressive attitude for forging ahead. I recently talked with lead singer and guitar player Morgan Rae for Maximum Ink, just as the band gets ready to release a new video and album on May 15th: 


Maximum Ink:  Introduce us to your band, and why it’s pretty unique in the way you got together?
Morgan Rae:  Cocoa Malamiravict plays guitar and sings with me. It’s actually how Devil to Drag got its start. The two of us played and wrote together acoustically. It was his idea to then add Wade Coisman from Real Knives on bass. They’d played together in Underground Day 1 too, and have always worked together really well. It’s almost creepy sometimes to watch them communicate in rehearsal, because a lot of it is done through looks and vocal cues that aren’t actually words, but they still somehow understand each other.
Kai Anderson, also from Real Knives, was the last member to join, but in my opinion is the most influential addition when it comes to creating the sound we have today. We had asked him to play with us for a bigger show, then realized none of us wanted to go back to the more stripped down sound.
I feel really honored to be able to write and play with these three, and aside from all their musical talents, they each bring something different and important to the table, which I think is really going to set us up for success. Cocoa knows everyone and his brother, because he travels the country building greenhouses. He gets us a lot of great opportunities like playing Steelbridge Song Festival in Sturgeon Bay. Wade works at a print shop, so he knows all the ins and outs of navigating merchandise. And Kai not only works at WJJO Radio as a D.J., but also teaches at Madison Music Foundry, so he really helps make sure our practices to run smoothly when we’re tightening up material. Oh, and I have a full-time job too, at Peak Performance Massage.

MI:  Alot going on between the four of you! Where do you find your energy, and even your spirit for working on the new music?


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2066 ViewsPermalinkDevil To Drag Website
The Fine Constant from Madison, Wisconsin - photo by Chris Lotten

The Fine Constant

An Interview with Sarah Longfield
by Teri Barr
April 2015

What would individual artists—influenced by jazz, EDM, and a little mix of metal—sound like playing together as a group? No reason to wonder, as this band already exists. The Fine Constant has been making its unique style of music for less than a year, and is set to embark on a several month cross country tour in support of a new, original album being officially released at its Madison show on April 9th. But who is this group, and why is the leader a bit of a beautiful surprise? Sarah Longfield recently took time out of her busy, getting-ready-for the-road preparations, to answer these questions and more, for Maximum Ink: 

Maximum Ink:  Your technique on guitar is pretty incredible. It’s unique, and really difficult. How long have you been playing?
Sarah Longfield:  I’ve been playing guitar for about 10 years now. I started off playing piano when I was about 8 and have taken up various instruments since then, but guitar is what comes most naturally!
As for my playing, I don’t know much about theory or proper technique, but I like to think having to work around that is what has helped me to develop my own style.

MI:  Who’s in the band, and with your different interests in music, how’d you get together?
SL:  My two band mates are Steve Meyer on drums, and Steve-O Wilkes on guitar. Steve has been playing drums for 18 years and Steve-O has been playing guitar for 14 years. We ended up together because Steve was seeking a guitar player for a jazz band while I was looking for a band to play the solo material I had written and recorded in my basement. After jamming a couple of times, it all sort of fell into place. Steve-O then came into the picture a short time later, after our original guitar player left the band.


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Madison's Dogs of War on the cover of Maximum Ink for March 2015

Dogs of War

by Teri Barr
March 2015

Imagine a band, and all five of its members bringing different skills, styles, and goals to the project. It would sound like a fusion of hip-hop, rap, metal, rock, and blues. And its name would be—Dogs of War. This Madison-based group is a year in the making, but the individuals have been part of the scene with various well-known acts. Yet, Dogs of War is the one already being called cool, unique, bridging divides, and destined for something bigger. One of its founders, Dexter “Tefman” Patterson, took time to answer a few of my questions, including why it can be good to flaunt your differences, and how the band’s efforts can’t be defined.

Maximum Ink: This new project brings together some broad talents. Can you tell us more about Dogs of War?
Dexter “Tefman” Patterson:
Well, w’s so great about the Dogs of War is the diversity in our musical backgrounds.Vincent “Samhain Bane” Spruill and I are the two emcees for the band. We are also the co-founders of the award-winning veteran hip-hop group The L.O.S.T S.O.U.L.S. There’s also Anthony Salas on Guitar/Lead Vocals, David Payne on drums, and Dustin “D” Harmon on bass. They are incredibly skilled and bring rock, punk, heavy metal, and more as their influences.


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La Bomba Waters and Les Cougars - photo by Chad Sutherland - Rise Up Lights

Les Cougars

La Bomba from Les Cougars
by Teri Barr
February 2015

The Valentine invite intrigued me. Live musicians, comedy, dancing, burlesque—an all in one, all-woman show (unless you count Cupid, a young man wearing a diaper, as the only contributing factor to the male side of the cast). But once the lights went down on a packed house at the Cardinal Bar in Madison, a full complement of creative energy was on display, and did not disappoint. Tulin Waters takes her opportunity to entertain very seriously. Her group is known as Les Cougars, and her on-stage persona, “La Bomba,” is brash, but brilliant. Yet her whole goal of this good time revolves around supporting other entertaining women of a certain age—- meaning, not your 20-somethings. There were shapes, colors, styles of all types showing off their talents. And if it left the performers feeling good, it also left almost everyone in the audience with a certain kinship, and sense of power. As Les Cougars prepares for another show, they’ll be part of the CD Release Party for Meghan Rose at the Inferno on February 13th at 9 pm, Tulin took time to talk with me about the importance of making a difference, and how she’s finding the stage a perfect place to do it.

Maximum Ink: You are funny, but in a real, relatable sense. Your show includes humor, but still revolves around music, why?
Tulin Waters: I am a music scout, not a musician, which allows me to create a different type of show. My ear for talent came from living in 6 different countries growing up. It gave me a sense of respect and admiration for all types of music. The more you learn about other music from around the world, the more you grasp who has a real passion and understanding of it.

MI: Music is mixed with the unexpected for your group, Les Cougars. Why did you focus on this approach for a show?
TW: I started Les Cougars because this town is full of talented women over the age of 35. In the entertainment business, “maturing” women face ageism and get overlooked unfairly way too often. To me this is a travesty because talent only gets better with experience, and it is at this age when women are in their prime and absolute best up on stage. We should be glorified for what we have accomplished, not replaced, and I am proud to bring to the table a show where there are so many diverse and talented women coming together to preach age empowerment.


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2953 ViewsPermalinkLes Cougars Website
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